, , , , ,

2017-03-25 “Hello, Konglish!” Hello, Jinhee Han!

The “steak” of Teach North Korean Refugees is our English tutoring project. The “sizzle” is when refugees in our public speaking project give public speeches. Yesterday, before a crowded room at Seoul KOTESOL, North Korean refugee Jinhee Han gave her first public speech in English. She was amazing, the crowd was really interested: She was an English teacher in North Korea before she escaped to South Korea.

***

Jinhee first joined TNKR in 2013, back when TNKR was “English Matching,” and still just a hobby for the co-founders. Jinhee has remained in touch, although she has been too busy with her life teaching North Korean refugees. Plus, she is embarrassed to be introduced as an English teacher from North Korea because people will have high expectations about her English. I think because of it that she has avoided talking with people about her background. Yesterday, she gave her first public speech in English, discussing her English teaching career in North Korea and also discussing English education in North Korea. The crowd was clearly moved by her speech. She still prefers to remain anonymous, but last night she let us know how much she enjoyed it, and that she is willing to do it again. She has watched TNKR and stayed in touch over the years. She said she was crying as she listened to our speeches, she could truly see the impact that TNKR has had on North Korean refugees, and she thanked the many volunteers who have given so much of their time to help NK refugees adjust. We have encouraged her over the years not to give up on studying English because of the expectations some have and that she should ignore the quick-to-judge people.

She said that she felt so encouraged seeing that so many foreigners were so interested in hearing about her experience as English teacher, she would have never believed this could happen.

************************************************

Who was the hardest-working man not affiliated with the conference organizing team? TNKR Assistant Director Dave Fry! The co-directors were able to relax, think about their speeches, and provide support rather than having to lead at every moment.

Dave has the right personality to be the official TNKR Greeter!

*******************************************

After we wrapped up our panel, it was then photo time! We got a lot of great feedback. People were moved by Jinhee’s speech. They also loved hearing what TNKR co-director Eunkoo Lee had to say–it was also her first formal speech in English at a conference. I had to talk her into it, she is a shy lady, but she presented great insights about what refugees tell her about TNKR. In my case, I was amazed that several people told me that they came out to hear me speak, that some of them are regular readers of my Korea Times column. A few who have heard me speak say they learn something new every time, even though I am always talking about TNKR.

Some of the people we met promised they would get involved with TNKR, as a volunteer or fundraiser. One of the attendees even pledged to sell some of her artwork, and to donate the proceeds to TNKR!

Assistant Academic Adviser Youngmin Kwon is not pictured many times, that’s because he was the man behind the camera yesterday!

It was a team effort and an enjoyable time informing so many people about challenges North Korean refugees face and the role that TNKR has embraced in trying to give support to some of them.

, , , , , , ,

2017-03-24 Be Nice to Your Favorite NGO

Meeting #1: South Korean professional visiting from Hong Kong. He wanted to find ways he could help from Hong Kong.

Meeting #2: Feedback session with a North Korean refugee who arrived in South Korea in December 2015 and joined our program December 2016 after waiting for a few months.

I imagine that some of my peers who are involved in advocacy, abstract or analytical work about North Korea rarely or never have NK refugees seeking them out to thank them. Some of their work may be valuable, but it isn’t the type of work that leads to the people who benefit from what they are doing to praise them.

Read more

, ,

2017-03-24 No Time for the News or clowns

  • I haven’t watched TV regularly in decades.
  • When I was a college student, I subscribed to the Boston Globe, New York Times, Washington Post, read numerous magazines. These days, I barely pay attention to the news.
  • We have so much going on at TNKR, it is hard to keep track of our own activities building TNKR, so the latest killings, scandals, bombings, shootings, gossip, celebrity weddings, etc., just don’t interest me. Life is much more interesting building something rather than watching the chaos that interests news editors, TV producers, podcast hosts, and others in the chattering class.
  • When people ask me what I have been doing, I tell them, “Let me check my Facebook to see.”

Read more

, , , ,

2017-03-22 Pam Davidson, TNKR volunteer forever!

Back in March 2013, “English Matching” began quietly. One of the biggest changes occurred when Cho Joo Yeon joined us. She brought us so much energy that for the first time, we could think about expanding as an organization. She recruited volunteers for us. One of them who has remained with us, no matter where she goes, is Pam Davidson.

Whenever we were holding a meeting, Pam would come from “The End of the World” to join the session. She was then living several hours away from Seoul, apparently on the last road before you would land in water to the south of South Korea. Matching sessions, speeches, special events. It didn’t matter, she would join, or apologize. She even attended one of our events in North Carolina back in 2015.

She was the first TNKR volunteer to donate to us. That was at a time that we didn’t have an office, website, phone, or future!

Pam returned to the USA a while ago, but she has remained one of our cheerleaders. She is always saying on Facebook that she wishes she could watch our events. I have held off on recording events until we had a team in place that could do it in a professional way. We are not an organization with Internet buzz, we haven’t had a marketing or social media team in place, so we might put a lot of effort into it but only get 800 clicks. When refugee speakers in our program are ready to present, we want to do it in a professional way that they can be proud of!

Finally, because of donations from supporters, we finally have enough money in the bank that we can think about an expansion I have had in mind for a long time: A TNKR video project. If we are successful, we will finally be able to present stories of TNKR speakers in a professional way. Unlike many people, Pam doesn’t just give praise! As soon as I told her that we were setting up a video project, she set up a fundraiser to support it!

Pam Davidson joined TNKR as a volunteer in early 2014. Read more

, , , ,

2017-03-21 TNKR featured by Koreana magazine

Teach North Korean Refugees has been featured in the Spring 2017 edition of Koreana magazine (Vol. 31 No. 1). The author of the article is journalist Kim Hak-soon, a Visiting Professor at the School of Media and Communication at Korea University.

Koreana (PDF)

 

 

, , , , , ,

2017-03-18/19 Active, not busy

A bit earlier, a friend I haven’t seen since September asked me if I’m still busy. I said: “I’m not busy. I’m active!” That means that I’m doing many things, meeting many people. But I can always squeeze fun into my schedule, no matter how busy I may look to some people.

****

TNKR’s upcoming schedule.

Read more

, , , ,

2017-03-18 “Don’t Make Me Fly!”

This morning we coached a refugee who is getting prepared to give her first public speech in English when TNKR presents at the 13th KOTESOL Seoul conference. She was an English teacher in North Korea, but she lacks confidence to give a speech in English. So this morning we gave her feedback on her speech.

Step 1, she wrote her speech in Korean. We like it so the speakers deliver their speeches with as much of the original flavor as possible.

Step 2, TNKR volunteer translator Lee Saria translated it into English.

Step 3, I edited it.

Step 4, Eunkoo Lee and I gave her feedback today. She felt encouraged after the session. Before, she had been worried that we might want to cancel after hearing her speak. We tried to make it as realistic as possible by having her stand up to give the speech. Today I convinced Eunkoo Lee that we should buy a mic stand so that speakers can practice without holding the microphone and their speech text. She felt like she was flying her confidence was soaring.

Step 5: I will record the speech so she can follow the intonation and also use correct Texas pronunciation.

********************************** Read more

, , , , ,

2017-03-17 Inspired by Eunhee

Eunhee Park visited the TNKR office yesterday for classes with tutors Debbie Roberts and Kaina Ortiz. It is amazing to see her speaking in English. She joined TNKR almost two years ago at a basic level, and now she is laughing and joking in English! Those of you who haven’t read my Korea Times column about her, please do so, to see how incredible her story is. You can also read it in her own words at her fundraiser for TNKR.

*****************

Read more

, , ,

2017-03-16 Not everyone at McDonalds cooks hamburgers…

Something I hear very often: “Teach North Korean Refugees means that only teachers can volunteer at TNKR, right?” Another version: “But I’m not a teacher. Can I volunteer?” They are usually surprised to learn they can do things other than tutoring. As I often say in speeches: “Not everyone at KFC kills chickens. There are drivers, accountants, marketing specialists, salesmen, many other positions.”

Join us for TNKR’s Open House on April 1 to learn about many ways you can get involved.

Such as:

Tony is a professor in the USA teaching speech and communication. He has volunteered to analyze the speeches of refugees. He was at TNKR today for more than 7 hours, spending quite a bit of it analyzing the speeches from TNKR’s English speech contest. So much detail, I have already ordered him to avoid critiquing my speeches. As I told him: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

By the way, if you would like some nice Korean stickers, Tony will send them to you, if you donate at least 10,000 won to TNKR.

Read more

2017-03-16 You Can’t Have Everything…

I love it when TNKR tutors and students study together at TNKR’s humble office.

  • Tutors feel more connected to the program.
  • Refugees are more likely to give us feedback when they see us more often.
  • We have a better understanding of the needs of the students.
  • Tutors are also more likely to share concerns as well as successes.

Everything is great, except for the fact that we don’t have enough space. There’s an old saying, “You can’t have everything.” As comedian Steven Wright later added: “Where would you put it?”

We have more students and tutors coming to the office, but where will we put them?

 

***

***

Read more